Skip to main content

Fischler Report: Quite the Climate Change Between Florida and Calgary

Stan Fischler looks at the Panthers/Flames trade, the Seattle Kraken's off-season, Lionel Hitchman, Zdeno Chara, Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Gordon and so much more in this week's edition of the Fischler Report.
USATSI_12016231

MAJOR CLIMATE CHANGE BETWEEN FLORIDA-CALGARY

So, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mackenzie Weegar leave the warm, sheltering palms of Pantherville for cold Calgary while Matthew Tkachuk moves to Sweaty Sunrise. Now that's climate change.

The two-for-one deal is a big winner for the Flames previously wounded Brad Treliving who needed balm like roses want water.

As for the Panthers, my man in The Southland, Alan Greenberg, says he hasn't been so shaken by a trade since the Rangers dealt Andy Bathgate to Toronto in 1964.

"From a Florida viewpoint," says Greenberg, "this deal is tough to take, but easy to figure. Eight-year contracts to 29-year-olds (Huberdeau) never age well. (He wouldn't have gotten it until he was 30.)

"Since the Cats are desperate for Cap space this season, Weegar becomes collateral damage. Florida couldn't have kept those two after this season.

"Even with the deal, the Panthers still are $3+M over Cap. With Anthony Duclair probable for LTIR they can likely comply at least for the start of the season. Watch for them to give away Patric Hornqvist and retain some salary."

From a Flames viewpoint -- as Eric Francis told The Sports Network --"This is not a rebuild but a re-tool."

It automatically is a wound-soother after the one-two below-the-belt punches delivered by Johnny Gaudreau and Tkachuk.

Via Panthers broadcaster Steve Goldstein: "It all makes sense. Barkov needed a player like Tkaczuk on his wing."

Mark Spector of Sportsnet: "The Flames win the trade by some margin."

Our Gus Vic: "The team that gets the best player wins. Calgary got him plus, Weegar, plus a prospect."

A Postscript from Big Al: "Weegs and Huby will be missed on and off the ice. Both class acts!"

---

WHY THERE'S NO WAY THAT COLORADO REPEATS

Once the Avalanche defeated Tampa Bay for the Stanley Cup, a Denver sports columnist performed the typical knee-jerk reaction.

The Avs have the makings of a dynasty.

Such nonsense is to be expected as long as the readers realize that it ain't gonna happen. No way. And if you're wondering why, check on what my investigative reporter, Al (Call Me Alan) Greenberg declares:

"Repeating as Cup champs is more difficult than ever in the Cap Era.

The Aves were worthy winners but the margin of victory was close. The Lightning just ran out of gas in the Final Round.

"Look for the Avs stiffest competition in 2022-23 to come from the East where all eight playoff teams hit the 100-point plateau "

Here's why the Avs won't repeat:

"After the first rush of Free Agent Frenzy, Colorado lost their number one goalie in Darcy Kuemper and only replaced him with an OK backup, Alex Georgiev to pair with Pavel Francouz. Goaltending is only average and will require lethal offense and a super strong defense to compensate.

"Add to that the losses of key personnel -- Andre Burakovsky and the likely loss of Nazem Kadri -- will diminish the club's strength. And, despite the advantage of having the likes of Cale Makar and Josh Manson for a full season, the challenges will be many. To wit:

1. Tampa Bay: The Bolts core is basically intact save for the loss of Ondrej Palat.

2. NY Rangers: New York built momentum with their three-round run. While they lost key players such as Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp, they did add Vincent Trocheck and that makes them better.

3. Toronto: The Leafs horrendous streak of not getting past the first round must end if for no reason than statistical probability. A single goal was the margin in the opening series loss to Tampa Bay. And many will argue that the Leafs were the better team. Toronto's goaltending -- Matt Murry and Ilya Samsonov -- will be a major X-factor.

4. Pittsburgh: The Penguins always will be in the mix as would any team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the payroll.

5. Carolina: Although the Canes have been weakened by the loss of Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter, the addition of Max Pacioretty keeps them right in the mix. Plus they wisely replaced Tony DeAngelo with Brent Burns.

6. The West.: There are two legitimate threats; Minnesota and Edmonton. The Wild is little changed from the team that registered 113 points last season. The exchange of Cam Talbot for Marc-Andre Fleury is a wash. The Oilers -- led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl -- are too good to ignore, especially with Jack Campbell in goal, Evander Kane is back in the fold and Jay Woodcroft is starting his first full season behind the bench. That's all to the good."

(Maven's choices as Top Three Cup Threats: Rangers, Oilers, Tampa Bay).

---

GET TORTS MAD AND HERE'S WHAT YOU GET

The Rangers didn't like Tony DeAngelo so they gave him a sabbatical and then got rid of him.

Carolina got him and Tony The D-Man gave the Canes some of the best defense-offense in the club's history.

Then Carolina cashed in the Tony chip in a deal with Philly and DeAngelo now gives the Flyers one of the NHL's best blueliners.

Yet, for spurious reasons, some misdirected media types are still unhappy with DeAngelo.

And that only makes Tony's new coach, John Tortorella, very unhappy with the anti-Tony crowd. Or as Torts unhesitatingly says, he's "pissed off." Better still in one fell swoop of an interview on Philly NBC.

Torts mounted a zingeroony of a defense of his defender. And I love it.

"The thing that bothers me," Torts said, "and some of the things I've read is people are upset about Tony DeAngelo. Tony is a hell of a player. Tony has personality. Is he going to say and do some stupid stuff? You're damn right he is, but I'd rather have a guy doing stupid stuff than have a choir boy here just going about his business.

"You don't win that way. You don't win championships. You don't build a team without any personality.

"Tony's going to bring that and plus, he's a helluva player. It pisses me off some of the things that have been said about these guys because I think everyone wanted the big splash."

Good for Torts, sticking up for his guy.

---

THE KRAKEN'S CHRISTMAS IN JULY

There once was a movie, "Christmas In July," starring Ellen Drew and Dick Powell.

It was about a clerk who was tricked into thinking he'd won $25,000 in a slogan contest. Was the Dick Powell character ever knocked for a loop when he learned he won nothing after all.

When I heard the other day that the Seattle Kraken's general staff is claiming it's "Christmas In July" because they landed Shane Wright, I couldn't help thinking that Dick Powell was Wright before Shane became one.

I wonder whether the Kraken think they won a prize or just prose.

My guy in the Northwest Territories, Glenn Dreyfuss, hasn't seen the movie but he's seen enough of Shane to believe the Kraks have the right guy. Here's the Seattle view; which makes more sense than "Christmas In July," the movie.

"Someday," says Dreyfuss, "the Canadiens, Devils and Coyotes may be left wailing that classic 1953 movie line, 'Shane! Come back!' In the 2022 Draft, Montreal, New Jersey and Phoenix all passed on can't miss center Shane Wright, leaving him for Seattle at #4.

"Did these other teams know something the Kraken didn't? It's harder than usual to determine because the pandemic wiped out his 2020-21 OHL season. But in simplified relationship terms, Wright just never made their hearts race. Some question if he has the passion required of NHL-level superstars.

"Even detractors say Wright does everything well, including an elite-level shot and hockey I.Q. Wouldn't it be a film-script twist if the very passion teams found lacing was ignited by their snubs? 'It's definitely going to give me a little more fire," Shane told reporters on Draft Day.

"The Kraken can only hope Wright's debut is as dynamic as Seattle's pick Matty Beniers' who flashed star power in a late-season callup. These two centers have the potential to form the biggest box-office pairing since Butch and Sundance."

---

THE IMPORTANT STORY SOON TO BE WRITTEN

With so much other hockey news breaking, nobody in the media seems interested in digging into the NHL Players' Association machinations and the quest for a new executive director.

Donald Fehr has been effectively told by his constituents to scram. What really matters is the method in which a new union boss is selected and which power blocs within the union win out.

What's at stake is labor peace. And if anything has been gained -- a huge gain, mind you -- it's been the fact that Fehr and Commissioner Gary Bettman enjoyed a better relationship than any pair of leaders since Paul Kelly was forced out of office in a secretive summer coup d'etat never voted upon by the rank and file membership.

I thought Fehr's deputy, Mathieu Schneider, had a shot at inheriting his boss' throne for a while. But, at least one insider tells me Matty won't be considered.

In any event, a big union meeting should be held before training camps open and that will help us understand which direction the leadership will move.

One thing is certain; at the rate, the union membership is coining money, the union membership should covet labor peace more than ever.

---

YAYS AND BOOS:

YAY TO WILD PR DEPARTMENT as co-winners of the Dick Dillman NHL best publicists award. (Credit Billy Guerin as well.)

BOO TO JOHNNY GAUDREAU: He could have kept his mouth shut and not disclosed that he rejected the Devils for Columbus. That was a gratuitous kick in the D's pants -- totally unnecessary and unwarranted.

---

WHO SAID IT? "I woke up one year older but, I'll bet I aged ten years that night." (ANSWER BELOW).

---

AN OUTRAGEOUS HALL OF FAME OMISSION BECAME A BOOK

Any NHL observer of the late 1920s and early 1930s will tell you that if Bruins All-Star defenseman Eddie Shore is in the Hall of Fame, then Lionel Hitchman should also be in the Shrine.

But, in Hitchman's case, justice has not triumphed.

Fortunately, this issue has not gone without challenge. Hitchman's granddaughter, Pam Coburn, was not one to sit in the corner and sulk about this miscarriage of hockey justice.

Coburn sat down and wrote a book about her grandpa and it's a winner even though -- in this case -- the Hall of Fame emerges as the loser and its voters are sadly mistaken in omitting an NHL great.

Although Coburn's book, "Hitch -- Hockey's Unsung Hero," is three years old, I hadn't had a chance to read it until now.

Carefully documented and overflowing with rich NHL tales. Pam's work is a must-read for anyone interested in the first two decades of NHL history and how the Bruins began big-league life as a rabble of losers to later emerge as the first phenomenal team in major league annals.

If Hitchman had a "problem," it had nothing to do with his excellence but rather that he teamed with the flamboyant Eddie Shore whose

ability was not as highly-rated as his outrageous character.

Hall of Fame player and coach Dick Irvin put it best when he noted the following:

"Shore was an exciting player to watch, especially when he was carrying the puck. But he often wound up nowhere. Defensively, the guy he was teamed up with, Lionel Hitchman, was better."

(Next Week: How Hitchman turned the Bruins into one of the NHL's greatest teams. And how Hitchman was as outstanding a blueliner as Bobby Orr.)

---

I'M JUST SAYIN'

* This should be about the time when Zdeno Chara tells us that he's packing in his Hall of Fame career.

* Nor would it surprise me if one of The Big Guy's former teams hires him as an assistant coach and phys ed trainer. Nobody trained harder than Z.

* There's optimistic talk about Carey Price resuming his career with the Habs. For Carey's sake -- not to mention Montreal's -- I hope it happens.

* Of all the big-shot, high-priced goalies in the NHL, I'd say the biggest question mark regarding his ability and comeback-ability surrounds Robin Lehner.

* Should Lehner fail the Golden Knights, Vegas' team will submerge once again.

* One of the most likable, competent and underrated D-men -- Andy Greene -- should be revealing his plans as well. Retirement is a realistic possibility.

* Pat Verbeek has been impressive behind his Anaheim desk for a rookie general manager.

* Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano are a pair of solid Duck adds.

* As newspapers fade, more and more city hockey sites appear online. I just discovered PhiHockeyNow out of Philly. Vet Flyers reporter Sam Carchidi puts out an exciting website.

* Were there an award for Ridiculous Money Spent For Less Results, consider this: John Tavares will get $11 million per for the next three seasons.

---

BULLETIN FROM ISRAEL'S JEWISH OLYMPICS:

The Pal Arena in Jerusalem was packed on Saturday night as Uncle Sam's skaters faced off against Team Canada for the Men's Hockey Gold Medal in the Maccabi Games. Until these 2022 Games, the True North Skaters almost always won. But not this time; It was 5-1 for Team USA.

In last night's U-18 thriller, Team Canada beat Uncle Sam's rep, 5-4 in overtime for the Gold. Josh Mori of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks was voted tournament MVP logging 11 points in five games. His team's captain, Mori led his team to an undefeated 5-0-0 run. While Team Europe's men's team didn't win gold, it scored a thrilling late-game win over the host Israeli team to win bronze.

---

EXPLAINING JOHNNY HOCKEY'S MOVE

Perhaps John Gaudreau's choice of Columbus isn't that complicated after all. George Falkowski says he figured it out. "He just didn't want the high expectations of playing in the Northeast and was tired of the pressure, playing in a hockey hotbed like Calgary."

---

OBITUARY: Jack Gordon, who passed away at 94 early this month, was a favorite of mine when he skated for the New York Rovers at old Madison Square Garden and later for the Rangers during the 1949-50 season. Jack was a Blueshirt when New York took Detroit to the 1950 Cup final, seventh game that went into double overtime before Pete Babando scored for the Wings.

Gordon's most productive playing years were in the AHL with the Cleveland Barons. He eventually coached and managed the team which ultimately led him to the NHL with a GM job with the Minnesota North Stars and Vancouver Canucks.

Writing in the Vancouver Province, Patrick Johnson described Gordon as follows: "In a game often filled with boisterous characters, Jack stood out in a different way. Quiet, composed, he picked his moments to say the right words."

---

ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT: Bruins goalie Gerry Cheevers, after celebrating his 42nd birthday on the same day Boston lost, 10-5.

TOP HEADLINES

CA1_5399

World Junior Roundup: Sweden Crushes Austria, Slovakia Scores Important Win

Sweden had no issue handling Austria, while Slovakia got the extra point in a big contest against Latvia on a quieter day at the World Junior Championship.

Ivan Fedotov

Screen Shots: Vegas' Goalie Problem, Hockey Quebec and Flyers Prospects Stuck in Russia

Adam Proteau returns with Screen Shots to talk about where the Vegas Golden Knights go now to address their goalie situation, Hockey Quebec's investigation into racism accusations and the latest surrounding two Flyers prospects in Russia.

Colorado Avalanche
Play

NHL Hot Seat Radar: Colorado Avalanche

There's always pressure to repeat as champions in the NHL, but the Colorado Avalanche will have to do it with a shakeup in the crease.